Laura Jacobs in City Journal: Dancing the Body Electric
In the seventies, not to put too fine a point on it, everyone was still alive. Martha Graham and Agnes de Mille were no longer making great work, but they were vivid, high-profile totems. Antony Tudor had one more great ballet in him: 1974’s The Leaves Are Fading. Robert Joffrey and his Joffrey Ballet were going full speed ahead, an audience-friendly ballet troupe that toured the country like a young, hip, and sometimes hippie version of the old Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Alvin Ailey, Eliot Feld, and Arthur Mitchell had companies that brought different demographics to the theater, and Merce Cunningham and Paul Taylor finally had national stature and repertoires that placed them in the pantheon. Twyla Tharp was coming into her own, bringing her melting-pot style and antagonistic syntax to the mainstream when she choreographed Push Comes to Shove in 1974 for ABT and Baryshnikov. Meanwhile, at NYCB, Jerome Robbins was experimenting with different forms of narrative (Watermill, Dybbuk), and Balanchine was deep into the late phase of his genius, putting on festivals—Stravinsky in 1972, Ravel in 1975—and tossing off blockbuster ballets like Union Jack in 1976 and Vienna Waltzes in 1977. Vienna Waltzes, according to Kirstein, would rank as the company’s “most successful” ballet. “For four seasons every performance scheduled was sold out,” he wrote. “It brought into the theater a new public, many of whom had certainly never been in the State Theater before.”
Couple all this creative energy with cheap rents—for no artistic discipline needs as much space, from class to rehearsal to performance, as dance does—and you had yet another reason for the dance boom.